Looking back at the issues I’ve produced as the editor-in-chief of Spare Change News, I’m surprised by the nuggets of wisdom hidden within the profiles of our vendors and other homeless men and women featured in the pages of our bi-weekly newspaper.
I call them “God shots”—those moments of clarity that leap from the page when I re-read the paper every Friday after it comes out.
Sometimes, the most profound words come from those who have suffered the most.
For example, I must have overlooked one quote from Jon Denning, one of our unsheltered vendors who was profiled in the Love Lessons edition. “Sometimes you’ve got to go through the pain to experience the joy,” he says. “I’ve been living off that saying since I was 14.”
Then there’s Joe M. who talks about letting go of a life-long resentment in Census Shocker and forgiving his father who physically abused him as a child. “When he was ready to die, he asked me if I’d forgive him,” he says. “I’m grateful I did. It helped me not to hate anybody.”
In this issue of Spare Change News, I was moved by the profiles of people like Queen, who overcame a personal tragedy and basically reinvented her life. “I had to interact, I had to open up, I had to let my wall down,” she says. “It started the process of me interacting with people again … and creating new relationships, because [before] I didn’t even want to interact with the relationships I had.”
Our readers are starting to find these hidden gems scattered throughout Spare Change News. “I’m always happy when I buy my paper from Burrell on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain,” says Jeanie Taylor via email. “He’s friendly and engaging. A couple of weeks ago he said, ‘I hope you will really read the paper. It’s getting better all the time.’ When I saw him today, I told him he was right. I enjoyed the last edition and am looking forward to this one.”
One of the first things a former editor told me when I started working for the newspaper was that no one actually reads Spare Change News. People buy it to help the vendors. I was heartbroken. However, I’ve seen a shift happening in our readers and, most importantly, our vendors. When Spare Change News hits the streets of Boston and Cambridge, there’s a genuine excitement in the air.
So, faithful readers, to quote the wise words of Burrell White: “I hope you really read the paper. It’s getting better all the time.” Amen.